Just like when we were children, as we grow into our golden years, our bodies’ nutritional needs change and evolve. Much of that is attributed to the fact that the number of calories needed declines as we get older, but the body also becomes less efficient at absorbing key nutrients. Since the body is requiring fewer calories, seniors must get the most out of those they do consume, which means eating “empty” calories like those found in potato chips, soft drinks, and so-called “junk” food can be prohibitive to maintaining good health.
Staying healthy year-round is particularly important for seniors.
There are several vitamins and minerals that are especially essential for seniors to maintain good health. Chief among these is Vitamin B12, which promotes the healthy function of nerves as well as creates red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout our bodies. The good news is that plenty of our favorite foods can pack a significant punch of B12, most notably fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy products. It’s hard to beat fish and poultry for overall healthy impact, but those of us whom are lactose intolerant can struggle finding enough sources of B12 and may consider asking a doctor about taking a supplement.
Calcium is also a major factor in maintaining our health as we get older. It is one of the most vital components in maintaining our bone and skeletal strength into our later years. Falls are one of the most dangerous injuries that affect the elderly; the AARP reports that 8.9 million emergency room visits per year are the result of seniors falling, and falls are one of the most common reasons that people move into assisted living facilities. Calcium is easily accessible if you are able to consume dairy products: skim, low-fat, and whole milk all have 300 mg per 8-ounce serving; and ricotta cheese packs a punch with 335 mg per 4-ounce serving. If you are lactose intolerant, fear not; orange juice is one of the most underrated sources of calcium around, with an 8-ounce glass containing 300 mg of the good stuff. Cereal is also an option, even without the milk, a serving can range from 100 to 1,000 mg, and there are lots of vegetable options as well, including collard greens, which contain 360 mg of calcium per 8 ounces. Calcium is also another mineral that supplements or multi-vitamins can address with a doctor’s approval.
As we become older, we tend to spend more time indoors, either because we stop working or because we become more sensitive to the variations in temperature. However, our bodies rely on sunlight to generate a lot of one of its most potent weapons, Vitamin D.
When it comes to protecting us, it’s hard to top Vitamin D’s attributes. Not only does it protect against diseases like cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and those that attack our autoimmune systems, but it also has been linked to maintaining bone density, absorbing calcium, and keeping osteoporosis at bay. In short, maintaining an outstanding intake of Vitamin D can be one of your best defenses against the common pitfalls of growing older.
Fish – particularly salmon and tuna -are excellent sources of Vitamin D, as are eggs.
While we all want to maintain nutritious, healthy eating patterns throughout our lives, this can be difficult to follow through on as we grow older. When kids leave the home, or when a spouse passes away, we may find ourselves less inclined to prepare healthy, balanced meals, and lean more on “quickie” dishes that come frozen and microwaveable, or can be purchased at a drive-thru window.
At our senior living communities, we take the worry out of planning your meals with our Sensations Dining. Not only do we employ a team of professional chefs, but we make our gourmet food from scratch every single day on-site. Whatever your dietary needs and wants, we will meet them day-in, day-out with lunch and dinner service six days a week plus an enormous Sunday brunch. But we don’t stop there. Our Senior Wellness Programs offer a specific “Focus on Nutrition and Health” schedule of events that allow you to continue learning about yourself, your body, and the things you consume in an effort to stay as healthy and as informed as possible.
We want your health to be a passion, not a problem, and have the tools in place to help you continue that part of your life’s journey.
Discovery Village At Westchase offers a variety of senior living programs to keep seniors healthy and active. Learn about our senior living options and amenities today when you contact us at 813.536.4723.